Research projects could provide insights into plant responses to climate change and the spread of invasive ornamentals

One research project that has just received a Marsden Fund Standard Grant will improve our understanding of how land plants adapt to environmental stress and could provide insight into how plants respond to climate change.

Another will focus on finding new methods for managing potentially invasive plant species, investigating why some non-native ornamental plants become environmental weeds and aiming to help forecast and prevent future biological invasion

Dr Kevin Davies, from Plant & Food Research, has been talking about the first of those two projects, to investigate hornwort plants, which are rare for their lack of ability to produce the red flavonoid pigment that is thought to help plants cope with environmental challenges. Continue reading

Marsden Fund supports world-leading research with $84.751m of grants

The Marsden Fund has allocated $84.751 million of grants to 134 research projects to support New Zealand research in the humanities, science, maths, social sciences and engineering

One large interdisciplinary project received a Marsden Fund Council Award worth $3 million. The project will investigate the links between asthma in young children in New Zealand and biodiversity, seeking insights into the role biodiversity plays in children’s respiratory health, and whether  areas containing native plant species are even more beneficial.

Marsden Fund Fast-Start grants support early career researchers to develop independent research and build exceptional careers in New Zealand.

Continue reading

Marsden Fund preliminary proposals for 2020

The Marsden Fund received a total of 1170 proposals, made up of 721 Standard and 443 Fast-Start Expressions of Interest (EOIs), and six Marsden Fund Council (MFC) Award proposals.

This represents a slight increase compared to last year’s total of 1163.

The Marsden Fund supports excellence in science, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities in New Zealand by providing grants for investigator-initiated research.

There are three categories of proposals available for the fund:

Fast-Start: For emerging researchers, capped at $100,000 per year for up to three years.

Standard: Open to all eligible researchers, amount of funding is flexible and is capped. These are larger than Fast-Start proposals. Funding can be sought for up to three years.

Marsden Fund Council Award: Open to all eligible researchers. Larger than Standard grants, up to $1 million per year for up to 3 years. Continue reading

Marsden Fund sprinkles $83.6m of funding on NZ science projects but it’s hard to spot the ag/hort beneficiaries

Uh, oh. It looks like the ag/hort science sector has secured precious little – if anything – from the Marsden Fund’s 2019 grants.

The fund is managed by Royal Society Te Apārangi on behalf of the government and presumably its decisions reflect government policy.

This week the allocation of $83.671 million (excluding GST) to 125 research projects across New Zealand was announced.

The society says the 2019 grants support excellent New Zealand research in the areas of science, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities

Two large interdisciplinary projects this year received inaugural Marsden Fund Council Awards worth $3 million (excluding GST) each. Continue reading

Marsden Fund gives a boost to climate change research

Several climate change projects were given a boost in the latest Marsden Fund investment of $83.6 million, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods said today.

The projects that will benefit from the investment include –

 Projects aimed at addressing climate change

  • Geologic champagne: What controls sudden release of CO2 at glacial terminations on the Chatham Rise? (The University of Auckland) – $952,000
  • Drought or Deluge? How did Rainfall in the Tropical South Pacific Respond to Sudden Climate Change During the Glacial Period? (Victoria University of Wellington) – $960,000
  • Could airborne microplastics play a role in climate change? (University of Canterbury) – $300,000

Projects aimed at renewable energy issues

  • Molecular wiring of graphene with organic films (University of Canterbury) – $960,000
  • Photon multiplying light harvesting antenna systems for luminescent solar concentrators (Victoria University of Wellington) – $278,499
  • Can enhanced exciton diffusion propel organic photovoltaic cells beyond the bulk heterojunction? (Victoria University of Wellington) – $891,197

Continue reading

New book deals with key issues around the new biological economy

The Royal Society of New Zealand today has drawn attention to a new book which deals with the ways New Zealanders are transforming how they make a living off the land, from milk and merino to wine and tourism .

The New Biological Economy is the second book to result from a project funded by the Marsden Fund in 2009. The first book, Biological Economies: Experimentation and the politics of agri-food frontiers(Routledge Hardback 2016, paperback 2018)had a stronger  academic focus.  The new book  is written for a public audience.

It poses some key questions:

  • Do dairy and tourism have a sustainable future?
  • Can the primary industries keep growing without destroying the natural world?
  • Does the future of New Zealand lie in high tech or in the innovations of a land-based economy?

The book explores how high-volume, low value-add industries in New Zealand can continue to grow – and do so sustainably.

We can do it with merino, we can do it with meat – and to a certain extent we can probably do it with dairy and with tourism as well,” co-author and associate investigator Professor Eric Pawson told Kathryn Ryan of RNZ’s Nine to Noon.

Co-author and co-principal investigator Professor Richard Le Heron, FRSNZ, told Nine to Noon Miraka, a Māori-owned company north of Taupō, uses geothermal energy to process up to 250,000,000 litres of milk a year into powder and heat-treated products.

“There’s a lot of what we refer to as cross-scaling associated with what they’re [Miraka] doing – capsicum and tomatoes and suchlike drawing on the energy source that they have at their particular location,” he says.

The full interview isThe New Biological Economy: Sustainability, economy and adding value to primary industry commodities.

The New Biological Economy takes readers out on to farms, orchards and vineyards and inside the offices and factories of processors and exporters, to show how New Zealanders are meeting the challenges. The book is available to purchase from Auckland University Press.

For their research, the ten authors spent nine years talking with farmers and other commercial players to really ground the research in what is happening on the farms and in the factories.

Professor Le Heron said the team members had to overcome the barrier that at first people didn’t want to talk with academics, but over time some really fruitful conversations took place.

He describes the project “as an example of engaged social science research feeding back into wider society”.

“The Marsden grant enabled us as a research group to greatly develop our social science transdisciplinary and individual disciplinary skill sets and lay the foundation for more recent research contributions in the the land-coast-sea spaces of Aotearoa New Zealand. It also allowed us to commence work on laying the foundation for a new generation of regional development thinking and practice in this country.”

More information about the Marsden Fund grant can be found  here.  

Source:  Royal Society of New Zealand

Funding is won for research into bumblebee learning

A Plant & Food Research project which is researching the learning capability of bumblebees is among the 136 projects granted funding by the Marsden Fund in the latest round.

Most animals are capable of learning, but being a “good learner” is not always beneficial as learning involves energy investment.

In “The effect of environmental complexity on learning capacity in wild bumblebee populations” project, pollination scientist Dr Lisa Evans and her New Zealand and international collaborators will compare the learning capability of wild bumblebees occupying different kinds of floral environments, to determine whether learning potential provides a selective advantage to bumblebee colonies in some environments but not others.

The outcome will further our understanding of why we observe variation in learning potential within species and whether this can affect the ability of bees to successfully reproduce. This project has received a $300,000 fast-start grant designated for early career researchers.

The Marsden Fund, managed by the Royal Society Te Apārangi on behalf of the New Zealand government, supports New Zealand’s best investigator-initiated research in the areas of science, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities.

Source:  Plant & Food Research

136 new proposals get Marsden Fund money for critical research

New Zealand’s top researchers will be able to investigate critical issues and build knowledge across the board supported by $85.64 million over the next three years through the 2018 Marsden Fund round, announced today by Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods.

The Marsden Fund supports New Zealand’s top researchers to conduct excellent research across science, mathematics, engineering, social science and the humanities.

This year 136 new proposals have received funding across a range of disciplines and topics, from climate change to kauri dieback to youth mental health.

Woods said the government has set some ambitious targets – reducing child poverty, transitioning to 100% renewable electricity by 2035 in a normal hydrological year and increasing the supply of warm, dry homes.

“Building up the knowledge base is absolutely vital for us to address these issues, particularly with global challenges like climate change,” she said. 

“These recipients will undertake research of the highest quality in their fields of expertise and raise the standard of research in New Zealand. The Marsden Fund is key to growing New Zealand’s innovation-led economy and society, and boosting our R&D investment.

“The diversity and strength of the research funded will have many flow-on effects for New Zealand’s science and innovation system, as well as long-term benefits for our environment, society and the economy. I congratulate all of the recipients announced today.”

The Marsden Fund is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand. Proposals are evaluated by independent assessment panels and the final recommendations for funding are made by the Marsden Fund Council, which is chaired by Professor David Bilkey.

The Minister said the full results and researcher contact details for media comment are on the Royal Society Te Apārangi’s website.

She steered people to the site in English

And in Māori:

Source:  Minister of Research, Science and Innovation 

New Marsden Fund Council appointments announced

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods today announced several  new appointments to the Marsden Fund Council and a new chair, Professor David Bilkey.

Dr Richard Newcomb, Professor Cynthia White, Professor Richard Easther, Associate Professor Julia Horsfield, Professor Geoff Chase, and Professor Jarrod Haar will join the Council this month.

Dr Woods said all were highly regarded researchers domestically and internationally, and had a wide range of expertise that complements the strengths of existing members.

Professor Bilkey is a current member of the Council and has considerable experience in reviewing grants at an international level.

The Marsden Fund supports top researchers to conduct research across science, mathematics, engineering, social science and the humanities.

Dr Woods also announced the reappointment of Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley, Professor Penelope Brothers and Professor Gillian Dobbie as Council members.

She acknowledged the outgoing Chair, Professor Juliet Gerrard, and members Dr Ian Fergusson, Professor Roger Nokes, Professor Vicky Cameron, Professor Robert Hannah and Professor Jarg Pettinga for their service as members on the Council over the past three years.


133 projects are selected for Marsden funding from an increased pool of $84.6m

Massey University is delighted its researchers have received more than $15.6 million from the Royal Society of New Zealand’s annual Marsden Fund for 26 projects, a record number of projects funded and total funding.

The 26 successful Marsden grants – made up of 10 “Fast-Start” grants for new and emerging researchers and 16 standard grants – represent 18.4 per cent of the total funding pool this year.

The projects include studying super-heavy elements, Māori resilience in post-disaster contexts and sexuality and ethical deliberation in residential aged care.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas congratulated the researchers, saying competition for research funding is intense and  133 research projects selected to receive funding nationwide were chosen from more than 1000 preliminary proposals.

The 133 projects are being funded for a total of $84.6 millionm a significant increase from last year’s $65 million.

The Fund received a boost in the 2016 Budget of an additional $66m over four years, which allowed more proposals to be funded and increased the success rate from 10.7% last year to 12% this year.

Full Marsden Fund results are available on the Royal Society Te Apārangi website.

The Science Media Centre is posting expert reaction to the results on its website.

  • Associate Professor Nicola Gaston, Department of Physics, University of Auckland, comments:

“It’s great to see that the Marsden Fund continues to act as it should, in supporting researchers across the science and humanities research spectrum. It is fantastic to see the anticipated increase in success rates deliver, and in particular to see the effect of this on the number of early career grants coming through.

“Success rates remain low, however, and the increase in research funding to OECD averages promised by the new government cannot come soon enough. In particular, the Marsden Fund continues to hold itself to account and report carefully on gender and ethnic equity; this demonstration of best practice should make the Fund a worthy target of that promised increase.

“It’s even nicer to see that there has been a significant increase in the number of Māori researchers funded: this metric has been too low for too long, and it is to be hoped that this year’s data is a sign of real progress – though this is yet to be seen, time will tell.

“It is also really exciting to see the range of projects that have been funded. This is work that underpins and enhances the expertise of our universities and research institutes, and we are all richer for it.”

  • Professor Shaun Hendy, Director, Te Pūnaha Matatini, University of Auckland, comments:

“This is the largest number of Marsden projects awarded in one year and is also one of the highest success rates – in fact, with just over 12% of proposals funded, it is the highest success rate for applicants to the fund since 2003. This is due to the largest real increase in funding since the Marsden Fund was created.

“It is also pleasing that this large increase in funding didn’t simply lead to more proposals being submitted, which would have lowered the success rate and increased the burden across the sector. It was established researchers that benefited most from this increase in funding, with early career applicants receiving the lowest proportion of funds since 2008.”